For International Women’s Day 2022, we wanted to share some of the fantastic insights and knowledge that women contributors have shared with The Homeworker readers. Our Wisdom from Women looks particularly at subjects that impact women in the workplace.
From confidence to money to menopause, see what fantastic wisdom these women have to share.
Research by McKendree University found women are more perfectionists than men, they suffer more stress, and are more conscientious. Struggling with perfectionism often comes down to a lack of confidence and belief in our own abilities.
Science shows that men, and women experience confidence differently. In a study by Harvard Business Review, a gender gap was found in self-promotion — with men rating their performance 33% higher than equally performing women. This is a striking example of the confidence gap and an overconfidence bias that largely hinders women to feel empowered and able to accomplish their dreams.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Stephanie Fitzgerald explained how we can overcome perfectionism. “We can become very anxious failing to meet standards but we need to remember who gave them to us. If someone has asked us to do something, it doesn’t mean they want or need you to do it perfectly. Make sure you separate the reality of their expectation from the falsehood of your own.”
“When struggling with perfectionism, self-care is often the very last item on our to-do list, if we remember to put ourselves on there at all. We know that perfectionism is often triggered by anxiety and stress, and can lead to a lot of self-criticism. Self-care can be the much needed antidote to this negativity, and as we self-care, it enables us to be more productive, make better decisions, be more decisive and feel healthier and happier. Don’t reward yourself with self-care when you are busy, instead recognise that it is self-care that will get you through and prioritise it.”
PR Coach and founder of Devon Trice Public Relations, Natalie Trice shared her ideas on growing your confidence when working at home in issue 009. She recommends connection with others can help with your confidence levels. “If you are used to being around people in the office, you might find that being at home all the time can dent your confidence… Maintaining the buzz and confidence that you can get from being around others is important for your energy and morale. Weekly online co-working, WhatsApp chats or a private Facebook group can ensure you stay connected to those you work with or those in similar situations.”
She also suggests taking the occasional risk. “We all know that by staying on the sidelines we keep safe, we remain free from ridicule and judgement, and we leave rejection for someone else. However, if you stay small in the dark, you could miss out on so many opportunities, which could take your confidence to a whole new level. “
Asking for more money or going into any negotiation with your boss can be a daunting prospect. This can be particularly challenging for women, who can not only lack the confidence, but societal norms and history have told us that we are to expect lower pay than men.
There are also stark figures revealed by campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) who have looked at latest February 2022 statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and private pension wealth stats from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
According to the ONS, men aged between 65 and 74 have £182,700 in private pension savings while women of the same age have just £25,000 saved up. Meanwhile men get £170.50 a week of State Pension while women get £164.74 per week on average according to the DWP.
When private and public pensions are added together women in Britain are living on just £26 per day of pension income while retired men are living on £44 per day.
The difference in private pension is most acute because many women, already disadvantaged by balancing work with caring responsibilities, were not given sufficient time to make further savings when the pension age for women rose from 60 to 66 according to WASPI.
Expert salary negotiator and advocate for equal pay, Martina Ernst, served as HR director at Austria’s largest bank. She is also President of the Female Leaders Network at Vienna University. She believes women should not hold back in asking for salary increases. To feel confident going into a negotiation, she says preparation is key.
“Know what you are a good at and if you don’t know, ask your colleagues,” suggests Ernst. “A good self-image often starts with getting great feedback.”
She recommends writing down your strengths and what you are best at. Not only can it help raise your self-esteem a little, she says it will give you a clear list to talk about when you are in the meeting.
The other important thing to note is your added value. Ernst says anybody can do this for any job. She gives the example of a waiter who generates more customer loyalty, or a nurse who helps improve hygiene standards on her ward. Added value is not always about a sales figure.
“Think: ‘what did I do really well and why is it good for the company?’ I think this automatically makes you a better employee and much more likely to get a salary increase.”
The Business Journey
For female business owners and those looking to start out, Independent Financial Advisor, Kasie Della-Rumball says the support available is growing. “I think there is a rise in female entrepreneurs, and so there is a huge community supporting female-run businesses, and so in this regard the climate is fantastic for us! E-commerce, the internet and remote working has helped tremendously as we can work flexible schedules around child rearing.
On the other had women bear the emotional load of the household when children come along. We don’t want to miss our children growing up and all their special moments, and so often we are juggling a lot of plates and have to actively carve out time to focus on our business.”
However, investment in female-founded businesses remains relatively low compared to the investment in male founders. A Crunchbase report found a record amount of US start-up venture capital (VC) went to women in 2019 (that figure dropped again in 2020) but they still only get around 3% of business investment.
In fact, Bloomberg reported only 2% of VC funding went to female founders in 2021.
A similar, if not worse picture was found by a British Business Bank report, which found female-run businesses got less than 1p in every £1 of investment.
“Men and women speak different languages. The investors (normally men) want to hear about numbers, projections, conversion ratios etc.. where as women prefer to explain why they want to start a business and how it will serve their target audience. They often become more skilled in the analytics as their business grows,” says Della-Rumball.
She says it is often assumed that women are less financially motivated at the start of a project, that the business is a hobby. “But with careful mentorship and strategic financial education, these ‘hobbies’ can become extremely lucrative!”
Entrepreneur, speaker and transformation coach, Ava Brown talked to us about the story behind her business. She is passionate about empowering women and bringing awareness to the lack of investment in female founders. She shared her message for women who are debating whether to follow a dream.
“I want to say to every woman that it is no longer the time to sit on the fence and think, ‘I want to do something.’ If there was ever a moment to get up and do this and leave your legacy, it’s right now. We have to decide that we’re going to thrive… It’s a strange moment but it’s such a great moment for us to decide that we’re going to change the trajectory of our lives and the lives our children and grandchildren… Start finding communities of other women who are thriving and if you’re somebody who can help with investment, I dare you, I dare you to enable another woman… And if you can’t start something on your own, join a partnership, we are so much better when we’re together.”
Getting noticed in the workplace
“When working remotely you won’t get the serendipitous interactions you may get working in a main office, so you need to maximise opportunities. But there are lots of them,” says recruitment coach, Ellie Rich-Pool who shared her tips for career development in a virtual workplace in issue 13.
“For example, whenever possible, turn your camera on for virtual interactions, in small groups and large. On most platforms by having your camera on you go to the top of the page and are seen. Make sure your full name is on your Zoom account so people know who you are. Follow up after meetings one to one with people you want to get time with. Show up on LinkedIn and comment and contribute rather than just lurking and liking.”
“You need to lead your own professional development. It isn’t something that is ‘done’ to you. Seek out opportunities. Don’t wait. Focus on the areas you can control and influence. Take a lead in booking regular reviews with your Line Manager. This is your responsibility, not theirs. Make the first move especially when it comes to networking, which the majority of people don’t focus on,” says career coach, Ellie Rich-Pool.
Career Coach, Claire Brown agrees that we need to stay visible by seeking out opportunities. “This will also help you to perform well, by volunteering to help with a new project or by taking on some specific area of responsibility that creates a need for you to connect with others and to have a voice within meetings.”
Brown says we need to acknowledge that there is always a learning curve, especially when starting to work remotely or in a new role. She encourages us not to put too much pressure on ourselves. “Set realistic expectations and recognise that starting a new role whilst working from home comes with a unique set of challenges and that there will likely be bumps in the road at the start. Consider it a learning curve and part of the journey to get to where you want to be professionally.”
Working with menopause
One of the challenges that women face in the workplace is the onset of perimenopause and menopause. The symptoms that women can experience can be erratic and emotional.
“Ideally, we’d have greater awareness across society and there is gathering momentum to ensure this happens on social media and in the workplace,” says GPs with specialists in women’s health, Dr Heidi Kerr and Dr Victoria Hobbs of VHK Education.
To minimise symptoms and cope with the changes, they recommend exercise that focuses on core stability and strengthening. They also recommend a high-fibre diet that has adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D.
“To get the best out of a GP appointment, it is sensible to find out if there is a doctor with a specialist interest in Women Health at the surgery. Try to prepare prior to the appointment, thinking about the most troublesome symptoms and write notes as an aide-memoire; this should help your doctor understand the impact on your life and how best to guide and support you through the options available to you.”
The entire articles are all available in the back issues of The Homeworker magazine and in some of our print editions.